New research has been carried out by Dr Isabella Moore CBE, a former president of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber and the first female president of the British Chambers of Commerce, on the reasons behind that stark difference.
The research, undertaken with Aston University, found that confidence was one of the most common factors putting women over 55 off starting a business despite many acknowledging the range of benefits they could get from being an entrepreneur.
Dr Moore said: “With a third of the population expected to be over 55 by 2025, the economic implications of this demographic shift cannot be under-estimated. Interestingly, more and more people aged 50 and older are finding new opportunities and ways to express themselves through entrepreneurship.
“Research shows that companies started by older people tend to have a 70 per cent chance of surviving the crucial first five years compared to only 28 per cent for those started by their younger counterparts.
“Despite this trend, a gap remains between overall male and female rate of entrepreneurial activity in later life. If the reasons for this gap could be understood and addressed through economic policy, there are potential opportunities to alleviate negative pressure on welfare and retirement funds – and to maximise the significant contribution older women’s entrepreneurial efforts could have on wealth creation in this country.
“My research aims therefore to investigate why women in later life lag behind older men in entrepreneurship by identifying the motivating factors and challenges influencing them to consider setting up a business.
“The survey findings suggest that, despite a wealth of skills and experience, lack of confidence in their own abilities is a key barrier constraining many women in later life from setting up in business.
“Societal norms and expectations of older women to take on care roles of elderly parents and of grandchildren ensure that entrepreneurship is still regarded as an activity out of reach for many of them.
“My findings indicate a pressing need to re-evaluate existing policies on business support for older female entrepreneurs and for increasing awareness, not only in government departments, but throughout society, of their untapped potential contribution to the UK economy.”
The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce offers free advice and support to individuals who want to establish their own business and are urging women in their 50s – and beyond – to get in touch to make the most of what is available.
It is also urging successful female entrepreneurs over the age of 50 to highlight their positive stories to give others the confidence to take forward a business idea.
One such entrepreneur is Wendy Brown, who has run a range of businesses from training through to wedding venue décor. She is also a business adviser at the Chamber, supporting others to have the confidence to fulfil their ambitions of starting a business.
Wendy said: “I have never seen age as a barrier but accept that as we get older our health and physical strength may play an important part in what we are physically able to do. I sold my last business, which I ran for 10 years, as it was becoming too physical but have started a new business which does not require physical strength and, at 70, I feel in good shape to pursue this.
“My advice would be to look at your skills and abilities, research your idea and seek support available such as the Chamber’s start-up programme. Even with my experience it’s good to have a sounding board for ideas.”
Keely Hancox, operations manager at the Chamber, added: “Dr Isabella Moore’s research gives a real insight into why older women don’t tend to start their own business, despite having a wealth of skills and experience.
“Of course, we support men and women of all ages in starting a business but we believe, with International Women’s Day approaching and on the back of this research that highlighted the need to give women over 50 the confidence to tap into the kind of support on offer, this was the time to highlight to women who fall into this demographic what is available. And what a great role model Wendy is!”
For more information on starting a business, contact the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce on 024 7665 4321
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